Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra”

“The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 25
Production code 1722
Original air date: March 7, 1968

The Bat-signal: It’s midday at the Gotham City Alchemical Bank & Trust Company which, according to the sign on the door, is “A financial institution so conservative it pays no interest at all.” Okay then.

Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft and her husband Cabala swallow their invisibility pills and proceed to invisibly rob the bank, so it appears only that a bag of money is floating out of the bank. Gordon is informed of the robbery, but before he can call Batman, Cassandra and Cabala enter the office, still invisible and, after subduing Gordon and O’Hara, call Batman. Cassandra taunts him and assures him that he won’t be able to stop her from entrancing the city.

Bruce and Dick waste no time in sliding down the bat-poles and heading to GCPD HQ. They arrive to find that Barbara showed up to visit her father and has applied first aid to Gordon and O’Hara. Batman suggests accompanying Barbara to the library to check some books on the occult.

After stealing $600,000 from various places, Cassandra and Cabala return to their hideout. While Cassandra’s family history is one of failure—an alchemist who created TNT and blew herself up, another who fell in her universal solvent and was dissolved, and another who was crushed by her perpetual motion machine—she intends to succeed by freeing all the arch-criminals from the Gotham State Pen and turning them into her invisible army.

Batman finds Cassandra—and her family history of failure—in Who’s Who in Alchemy. Cassandra meanwhile challenges Batman, announcing to Gordon that she’ll steal the Mope Diamond from Spiffany’s this very day.

Cassandra and Cabala arrive at Spiffany’s, and threaten to steal the diamond. Batman, Robin, and Batgirl show up and she hits them with her Alvino Ray-Gun, which alters the structure of their molecular cells (seriously, that’s what she said—it’s almost hard to believe her family failed at science) and renders them all two-dimensional. Cabala piles them on the floor while Cassandra takes the diamond.

She delivers three flat heroes to Gordon’s office. They’re still alive—O’Hara can feel their pulses—but there’s nothing anyone can do for them. O’Hara suggests calling “the voice” who sometimes answers the Bat-phone. A devastated Alfred has Gordon ship them to the main Gotham City Post Office, and he’ll see what he can do. He picks up the flattened heroes in a ridiculous disguise and puts them in the Three-Dimensional Bat-Restorer.

Cassandra is not satisfied with beating the Terrific Trio—now she wants to bring Gotham to its knees. She and Cabala enter the Gotham State Pen while invisible and turn visible in time to hold Crichton and his captain hostage. She breaks Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Egghead, and King Tut out of the Arch-Criminal Wing. (Why Catwoman is Caucasian again, and why King Tut is locked up when we last saw him restored to his professorial persona are both left as an exercise for the viewer.)

In the Batcave, Alfred summons the Batmobile back to the Batcave, then beats a hasty retreat so Batgirl doesn’t see him.

Gordon calls on the Bat-phone to inform Batman of the prison break, and the Bat-computer reveals their location. Once the Batmobile returns, they hie themselves to the basement of the Mortar and Pestle Building on Abracadabra Alley.

Cassandra meets with her new allies, and explains how they’ll divvy up Gotham: Catwoman gets the fish markets, Egghead the poultry farms, Penguin the ponds and parks, King Tut the museums, and Joker and Riddler split the amusement parks. Cabala gives them all invisibility pills, and when Batman, Robin, and Batgirl arrive, they all take them.

Invisible fisticuffs ensue, as our heroes get their butts kicked by foes they can’t see. Batgirl hits on the notion of turning out the lights, which Batman does with a gadget. Darkened fisticuffs ensue, and our heroes are triumphant.

With the bad guys put away, Gordon and O’Hara arrive at Minerva’s Mineral Spa…

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman keeps a mini-bat-phone in his utility belt, thus almost anticipating the advent of cell phones. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t a toy phone…

The Batcave comes equipped with a Three-Dimensional Bat-Restorer, and Alfred also makes use of the Batmobile remote control. Our heroes use the Bat-computer to determine Cassandra’s hideout and Batman uses the Bat-sleep on Batgirl so she won’t know the Batcave’s sooper-seekrit location. He uses some manner of gadget—a bat-laser?—to turn out the lights in Cassandra’s hideout, a bat-flashlight, and an anti-Alvino Ray bat-disintegrator so Cassandra can’t flatten them a second time.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! When Batman likens Cassandra’s invisibility to a magician’s trick, Robin grumbles, “Holy disappearing act.” When Batman reveals who Cassandra is, Robin mutters, “Holy unrefillable prescriptions” for some reason. When our heroes are hit with the Alvino Ray-Gun, Robin shudders, “Holy helplessness.” When Batgirl discovers that she’s in the Batcave, Robin sighs, “Holy giveaways.” When informed that all the arch-criminals have been released from jail, Robin screams, “Holy catastrophe!”

Gotham City’s finest. O’Hara takes the glass off the bat-phone before Gordon can even say anything, and Gordon compliments him on his mind-reading abilities. Right, because it was so surprising that Gordon might call Batman when something weird happens.

More impressively, though, O’Hara has finally, after all this time, noticed that there’s some weird British guy who answers the bat-phone sometimes and maybe he can help? And indeed, Alfred saves the day by having the two-dimensional heroes shipped to him anonymously, restoring them, bringing back the Batmobile, and keeping his connection to Batman and Robin secret from Batgirl, who thinks he’s just Bruce’s butler and her confidant. Take that, Sean Pertwee!

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Robin rather creepily notices that Batgirl is very pretty when she’s asleep, and Batman proudly states that that’s a sign of the first “oncoming thrust of manhood” for the Boy Wonder. Wah-HEY!

Special Guest Villain. The husband-and-wife team of Ida Lupino and Howard Duff play the husband-and-wife team of Cassandra and Cabala, a couple whose dialogue is almost painfully hip. (For what it’s worth, Lupino sounds more natural utilizing the groovy-speak of 1968 than Duff, who sounds way too much like an old guy trying and failing to sound cool. The couple were both over 50 at this point, but being written as young cool cats.)

Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“I feel like I’m getting flat!”

“What a pity.”

–Batgirl expressing what the Alvino Ray-Gun is doing to her, and Cabala providing the double entendre.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 67 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Jim Beard (editor of Gotham City 14 Miles).

The Mope Diamond is a play on the Hope Diamond, while Spiffany’s on 15th Avenue is the latest riff on a New York City location, in this case the famous jewelry store Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue. The Alchemical Bank, besides being a fitting place for an alchemist to rob, is also a play on the venerable New York bank Chemical Bank, which has remained a venerable New York bank since 1896, though in 1995 they acquired Chase Bank and took on their even-more-venerable name.

G. David Schine, the former assistant to Senator Joseph McCarthy, does an uncredited turn as the floor-waxer at Spiffany’s. The character’s name is also G. David Schine, which must have made it easier for him to shoot the scene where he introduces himself. His casting is also a major insult to all the Hollywood people who were blacklisted by Schine’s boss in the previous decade…

David Lewis makes his final appearance as the beleaguered Warden Crichton.

Cassandra’s Alvino Ray-Gun is named after Alvino Rey, the big band musician. Stanley Ralph Ross wanted to name it after the then-current California governor (and future U.S. president) and call it the Ronald Ray Gun, but the producers wouldn’t allow it. He later made Ol’ Dutch into a weapon on Monster Squad.

The six villains are played by the actors’ stand-ins, and their faces are rarely seen. Old recordings of Riddler’s laugh, Catwoman’s purr, Penguin’s “waugh,” and Joker’s giggle are inserted into the production, but none of them get any dialogue.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Batfink?” This episode has to set a record for double entendres in a single Batman ’66 episode. Besides the two mentioned above—Batman’s comment about the oncoming thrust of Robin’s manhood and Cabala lamenting Batgirl getting flatter—there’s also Cabala’s line about how husbands and wives should bump into each other every once in a while, Cassandra dismissively telling Batgirl that other women’s numbers don’t interest her, Gordon’s reference to the prison matron nicknamed “Mrs. Frisk,” and Minerva’s line about how she would feel like a new man.

It’s like Broadcast Standards and Practices didn’t even care anymore. Then again, there’s only one episode after this…

Anyhow, this episode is a fitting swan song for Stanley Ralph Ross, consistently the best of the Bat-writers, filled as it is with absurdity, Bat-gadgets, a ridiculous deathtrap—our heroes being flattened had already been used once as a cliffhanger—and the usual nonsense. Ross also does the best he can with the third season credo of Thou Shalt Not Spend by providing villains who spend half the episode invisible, no henchmen or molls, and a bat-fight that is either three people flailing against nobody while the crew throws things at them from off camera or entirely in the dark.

Sadly, they’re done in by the casting of Lupino and Duff, who just are an awkward fit for the oh-so-hip dialogue the characters spout. (You have to wonder if they envisioned Sonny and Cher for this—they’d have been perfect. They’d even proven their acting chops by this point on an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that was directed by Bat-regular george waGGner.) And while freeing all the old villains for one final go-round is a nifty visual, it doesn’t even hold up in what passes for in-universe logic in Batman ’66. I don’t mind them all being imprisoned in the same wing, or that they can be freed by a single switch in Crichton’s office, because that’s in keeping with Crichton’s general spectacular incompetence as a warden. No, I just can’t see the six of them agreeing to be the toadies to some villain nobody’s ever heard of. Just four of them working together in the feature film was fraught with arguments and such, so why would they just sit and go for it now? (Also, King Tut should be back at Yale teaching Egyptology, not in jail, and seeing Catwoman be tall and white again is confusing, and not really fair to Eartha Kitt.)

Still, this would’ve made a decent final episode. However, we’ve still got one more to go.

Bat-rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido is running a Kickstarter for Mermaid Precinct, the long-awaited fifth novel in his series of fantasy police procedurals. Please consider supporting it! He will be a guest at Lunacon 2017 this weekend in Tarrytown, New York. He’ll be performing with the Boogie Knights on Saturday at 11am and again for a kids concert Sunday at 11am. He’ll also be doing a reading Saturday at 5pm.

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